How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Repurpose Old Hardware?

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
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Just because a computer isn’t peppy enough to be your primary machine anymore doesn’t mean it’s worthless. This week we want to hear about your repurposing projects. How do you squeeze life out of an old machine?

Whether you load it up with Linux for relatives to surf the web on, hack it apart for your latest DIY project, or tuck it away in the basement as a file server, we want to hear about your hardware repurposing projects.

What do you do with old hardware? How have you kept an old desktop, laptop, or even portable device like an iPod or Smartphone out of the landfill? Sound off in the comments with your tips and tricks. Remember, if you used a specific LiveCD or software package, throw a link our way so your fellow readers can benefit from your know-how.

Check back in on Friday for the What You Said Roundup and some new ideas on what to do with your old hardware.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/7/11

Comments (94)

  1. Wayne

    If I upgrade, then I donate working equipment to friends and family. Usually though, I don’t replace my computers until after I can’t find replacement parts for them. I am just now upgrading some of my machines to SATA from IDE drives.

    Here in California it is illegal to throw them in the landfill and purchase they charge you a recycling fee. Because of this most manufacturers take back old hardware and usually give a credit. They are then reimbursed by the state for the recycling fee. Our local waste management will also collect the hardware for stripping and recycling.

  2. Mark


  3. Brad

    My systems usually go through numerous stages of life starting from my personal development and gaming system and eventually to file servers/network shares. Once they are no longer useful or the actual hardware fails then they get turned into DIY projects.

    FYI: A reostat wired into a drive with sandpaper attached works as a great mini disk sander.

  4. Sage

    I recently replaced my old desktop at about the same time I finally picked up on the minecraft train. Suddenly I’m hosting a server for a few of my friends and my old desktop works like a champ for that!

  5. Deron

    Unintentionally, I’ve started shipping my old hardware down a familiar path:

    First, we go to linux. Start with puppy linux, and move onto whatever variation I stumble on. Typically, that means things like Edubuntu, Ubuntu Server, or

    Once we’ve moved on from the gee whiz aspects of playing with linux, we (my son and I) then move onto tearing the hardware apart and rebuilding it inside a box made of legos or something such thing.

    Then it goes to recycling.

  6. Isaac

    Yes! I recently took some old computer parts I had and built a new computer for my work!
    I am always looking for ways to use my old parts to better my computer experience!

  7. logan

    Some things I’ve done with older computers:
    – Reformatted and gave to in-laws as a starter computer for web browsing
    – Turned an old desktop from my boss into a Linux machine for tinkering with my Arduino Uno and scanning documents
    – Getting ready to try and salvage my old desktop (Pentium D, 2.8 Ghz) as a htpc
    – Turned my wife’s old school pc into my shed / workshop machine for web browsing and music playing.

    I have moral reservations of just throwing out old pc’s. I don’t even want to recycle, but once you stack up with 7 computers, it gets to be a bit much.

  8. Aaron

    I like to disassemble low capacity hard drives and remove the magnet inside. The magnets are quite strong and can be used for any number of things…just don’t let two of them come together on either side of your finger…

  9. Atomsk

    When I have old hardware, I usually like to give it new life by either installing a linux distro on it, routers I would install DD-WRT or Tomato. Or just take it apart for the fun of it.

  10. Outofpocket

    I have an old Abit KT7A with an AMD Duron 1400 (around 1998 vintage) that runs XP in the *minimum* process environment, and then run it as a 6 network camera server, saving the video from each camera to a 160GB hard drive. Been working fine for 3 years. I do no XP upgrades and don’t run virus software on it. It runs XP Pro SP2 with remote desktop enabled so I can login and see what’s going on.

  11. xana452

    First off I’d like to say to Mark, you get +3 internets for that comment.

    As for my self, I usually recycle the old things that I have, or sell them cheaply at a garage sale. For the hard drives I give them to a friend who has a use for them and doesn’t care a bit about speed.

  12. awraynor

    My HP Pavilion desktop runs Win7 as a test environment for new programs.
    I have an older SFF which runs Windows Home Server v1 quite well.
    The old laptop is a playtoy for my 3 year old so he will leave my production
    machine alone.

  13. coverthawk

    I throw old tech into the trash – that is what my taxes I pay are for – trash collection.

  14. dave

    I had 4 at one point, all hand-me-downs. with some other hand-me-down tech (really old surround sound units, like w/ vcr tape inputs) I set my house up for entertainment:

    – old dell (2ghz, 2g ram) converted to htpc (xbmc) for living room, using itunes to control music connected to inside and outside surround sound (itunes over xbmc b/c i can control easier by iphone/ipad), runs old v games roms with controller have it directly connected to…

    – old repurposed linksys wireless g with dd-wrt which is connected to xbox, tv, and directv dvr

    then i got:

    – old dell (2ghz, 2g ram) running xbmc for bedroom with wireless card, streaming movies over the wireless network from the living room pc to bedroom tv. also have directv2pc to view dvr from living room directv receiver

    used to have:

    – old (circa 96, 97, 733 mhz, 256 ram) home built pc: originally had as a jukebox for outside bar (foobar, tinyxp, external hd with mp3’s) but then converted to printer server for office when i realized the house i was in came with outside speakers for the patio and wall outlet for speaker wires. Originally had the aforementioned old surround sound in outside bar for personal sound.

    then someone gave me:

    – old (circa early 2000’s 1ghz, 768 ram ) hp: once i got this, i scrapped the above printer server for parts (just out of luck this one accepted the ram, originally was 512). got another linksys wireless g (garage sale), slapped DD-WRT on it and made it a bridge and turned this one into my new printer server (wife was getting pissed of the slowness of the old printer server).

    Took the remaining hard drive of the old (733 mhz) comp and put it in my living room pc for 2 hard drives. No need now for my external with mp3 collection, just copied it right in.

    Now, I’m moving house so in-laws got me a wireless printer, which kills my printer server comp.

    Trying to figure out what I am going to do with it since I’ll still have the outside bar with old surround sound that could stream music from my iphone/ipad (grabbing music from living room pc).

    Logan’s idea is pretty good, a workshop computer in my garage/workout gym.

  15. Franco Filiberti

    i got a ibm netfinity 5000 server w/pci sata controler and pci gbit network card runing a FREENAS. (nas server) And one old pc w p4 2ghz and 1 gb ram running a PFSENSE for routing and loadbalance.

  16. Doug

    Last time I put a huge stack out by the street. Two kids stopped and asked if they could take it which I said yes. With 80% loaded they stopped and asked, does this stuff work? I told them they had to test each item to find out. I told them I knew some did but I could not tell the what. Got rid of about 200lbs of hardware.

  17. Robert

    Most all of my old computers get recycled to the local schools in my area, and since most of my machines tend to be faster and newer than the schools classrooms, they are always glad to take them.

    My oldest computer, which I use a music share server through out my house is an old 486 machine. Works great for the kids to copy their ipod and iphone music to and from.

  18. D!

    I bury it, LOL

  19. Pasan

    I converted my old Pentium 4 2.8Ghz which I used as my desktop machine for good 8 years into a Linux server. It basically acts as my cloud so to speak – a file server. It is not as slick the way dropbox works but SFTP is good enough for my syncing requirements with the use of WinSCP. Also I’m a big user of Zotero and I have setup WebDAV with Apache on the machine for file syncing with Zotero. SFTP runs on SSH and WebDAV uses SSL so all the file transfers are encrypted. End of the day I feel good that my files are physically located on a machine that I own and I don’t have to pay for could storage and bandwidth by the megabyte.

  20. v10

    I repair computers for a living, and I often get people trying to dump their 6-8 year old computers onto me. In the past this used to be fine as I could re-purpose them for simple web browsing etc. for schools or older folks, but it seems that in the past few years there has been such a surge in demand in what a computer can do that none of these older PCs are viable anymore.

    The biggest reasons for old computers not being wanted seem to be this:

    -Lack of ability to run higher definition YouTube videos (Even schoolkids and grandparents expect this basic functionality now)

    -Unable to run newer operating systems such as Windows 7 or Linux editions that use the newer more graphical intensive GUI’s

    -Too slow to handle the newer Antivirus and web browser software, which either leads to negative impact on performance or opening up to security issues

    -Hard drives that are already 6-8 years old can’t really be vouched for to last any reasonable amount of time, and are often too small to be of any real use

    So yeah. That’s why I’ve got a stack of a good 10-15 working but unusable computers at the moment in my workshop. I would love some great ideas on what to do with them though.

  21. Wolfgang

    I use my old crap for servers, or if the hardware is too horrible to be useful, I salvage the HDD and stick it in my good server., and maybe take some of the fans and other stuff that Is perfectly good.

  22. happydish

    I recently upgraded my main/gaming computer, so I took out the old parts, (mobo, cpu, gpu,mem) bought a cheap 750gb hd (it was something like 60$ with a 15$ rebate) bought a htpc case off a friend (15$) and hooked the whole setup to my tv. I originally tried xbmc, then boxie, but I ended up installing Vista home edition just for ease of use for the family, It’s great for hulu, netflix, other video sources >.> and youtube. And the best part? It’s still modern enough to handle most games beautifully, (Just Cause 2 looks great on a big screen tv), Only problem is that I have to have a floor fan blowing on it while gaming, Cba to pull it out and put in some new fans, Plus I like how quiet it is when your just doing basic stuff.

  23. Robert D.

    I have three kids and usually pass them down. Just upgraded my rig and passed down my old rig to my son. Take the old ones and frakenstien a server or two for my kids(3 of them) to play lan games. We have a lot of fun and don’t have to worry about language for online play. And did I mention we have a blast!

  24. joe_Da_Schmoe

    if it is too old land fill otherwise smoothwall….

  25. scdaddyo

    Wipe the drives. Replace failing parts with inexpensive new ones. Put Ubuntu on it and give it away to needy people.

  26. Aurora900

    My desktops go through a cycle typically. As they get older they get used for lighter duties. The older ones end up as my web servers running linux and the ones with a bit of kick left in them will become secondary gaming machines to take to lan parties or HTPCs or other various projects like my PBX server.

    Laptops just kinda hang around… currently I have 3 and they all have their own purpose still. I have my Dell D610 which has a serial and parallel port which is useful the random project that may require a serial interface. I keep it running XP for additional compatibility with odd software. My Sony is newer and more capable of media and games… And then my macbook does, well… okay its just pretty alright! And its useful for jailbreaking stuff…

    As for smartphones, well… I’ve given my older ones away or sold them on craigslist. I’m replacing my droid x soon, I might toss it up for sale on ebay or craigslist to help offset the cost of my new phone.

    Eventually I donate older hardware to my best friend for his servers and whatnot as well. This past month I ended up with enough computers to fill my needs and had a decent P4 machine left over, so thats now my friends server.

  27. Urichhai

    Replaced hardware from my main system goes to the kid and hers goes to the wife and what comes out of hers either goes into one of the servers in the basement or into storage, Guess I should buy a few cheap cases and build a few kubuntu systems and donate them to the school when I get time. Could probably build 5 good systems for them.

  28. Girlgeek

    Destroy old hard drives, remove good parts, keep around for a while then send to recycling center. I have used old ram chips and cooling fans to fix client’s computers for only the cost of my time. If the machine is not too old I will offer it to the employee for purchase or set on the sale table. I’m taking in a friend’s computer to see if I can fix it or put the hard drive in a slightly newer model.

  29. jasray

    If you really do have old towers that are somewhat worthy of the name “old, but perfectly fine working computer,” send them to me. I have hundreds of students who need the hardware and want to learn Linux. Laptops as well. Thanks!

  30. Anon

    For my oldy, Installed debian on it and use it for my bitcoin wallet. Keep my wallet away from trojans.

  31. montykupo

    i normally fix computers, and get alot of tech dumped on me. it has become harder to refurbish and sell them since nowadays everyone wants a laptop or touch capable tablet. so if i cant sell it, i test out linux distros, and then salvage the product keys for future fixes before i end up donating to the goodwill computer works. usually they give you a form to fill out for tax donation forms, but i just donate and dont worry about the forms.

  32. Ecstacy

    I have my laptop, and then 2 old systems laying around. One is a Pentium 4 1.4 GHz with 384mb memory and a 40GB hard drive, the other is an Athlon 64 3300+ 2.4 GHz with 1 GB memory, an 80 GB hard drive, and a ATI All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro. I plan to give away the first system and use the second system as an all-in-one HTPC.

    Right now I’m planning on using it to store backups and music over the network because I only have a 64GB SSD on my laptop, as a DVR to record TV, as a torrenting and usenet machine (all legal of course :P), to play old games with emulators (SNES, NES, PS1, Dreamcast), and run either XMBC or Boxee all connected to my old 32″ CRT TV through S-Video to RCA and 3.5m Stereo to RCA adapters. I also have a remote for the TV-Tuner built into the graphics card and a wireless keyboard and mouse. I might just setup VNC and control everything through my laptop. It’s an older machine but I think it’s powerful enough.

  33. Ecstacy

    I also had 12 Pentium I 200 MMX machines with anywhere from 64-384mb memory in each but I just recycled all of them because I had the above 2 systems and they were just taking up space.

    Btw, if you need to recycle electronics ask your local Verizon store, most of them allow you to recycle your electronics for free.

  34. felipesegundo

    I can’t bring myself to throw old PCs out but I end up not using half of them. I’ve currently got nine in my (not overlarge) room, from a 1996 Apricot to a four month old custom beast. I’ve managed to repurpose one old desktop into a Crashplan/Audiogalaxy server. Other than that I basically just use the others for messing around on linux and hackintoshing (I’ve currently got a netbook with five OS’s on it).

  35. daller

    Im now using my old IBM T41 laptop with Linux Mint11, it have never been using so little power before and is not so hot having on the lap as when i used WinXp on it. So i also have sufficient battery lifte time.
    Its used when quick bootup is needed, and just for web/mail tasks. But do the job nicely. Loving that old Hardware again.

  36. William

    I recently got a shiny new Android phone, and decided to repurpose my old Windows Mobile phone as a desk mounted clock/email notification/what-is-playing-now device that connects to my desktop

  37. nt0xik8ed

    there is very little use in old computers. they’re slow, they have very little storage and memory. sometimes linux mint works but if i start getting too far away from a windows environment no one wants it. so mostly i strip what little parts i can use, i.e., start switch and case. but i’m pretty picky about the cases. 9 times out of 10 i trash them or they will just take up space

  38. Don

    Landfill a working computer? Really?
    The one in the garage is for playing Bejeweled. There’s the fileserver in the basement, and the x-10 automation box to make sure my macros are always running. Each kid has one, the 3 year old has a mac classic running the mouse learning program. The little box in the kitchen streams mp3’s from the basement. The pc hooked to the 50″ plays the 1080’s and games. The rec room box for more games and movies. Hell, I’m thinking I need one in the attic crawlspace. And drive platters make neat-o mirrors, too.

  39. AbbaDabba

    I took a very old machine back from my mother-in-law and will use it to run SpinRite on old disk drives in hopes of bringing them back to life.

  40. benjiisnotcool

    I’ve got 3 younger brothers who are in the process of upgraidng their machines along with myself. I plan on salvaging the components and having a go at some DIY to mount them all together and having a go at stringing them together into a Beowolf cluster! No idea what I’ll use it for but it sounds like a laugh :)

  41. Joe

    I tear them apart and use the components for various house projects.

    For example, I took an old power supply and “hot wired” it to always stay on. This power supply runs 4 computer case fans that are hooked up to a fan controller. They are installed in the canopy of my saltwater reef fish tank to keep the lights nice and cool.

    I also have an old XP Home machine in my garage that acts as my media player.

  42. Justin

    If the computer is a newer-older computer, then a test machine
    If it’s an older computer, some type of a server like a VPN Server or a music server.
    Otherwise, strip it of all good, usable parts an screws and recycle it.

  43. bobobano

    The last few times I’ve upgraded I turned my old machine (with a few minor hardware additions) into a server. I used one for a house server and one as an FTP server.

  44. st.mitch

    Being from a very small town and having access to a seemingly endless supply of unwanted machines through my business selling and repairing computers, I am constantly wiping drives and setting up basic systems for any garage or basement that is used for work, hobbies, or just hanging out. There are very few properties in town that don’t have one of my “leftovers”. I’m always happy to rip people’s music into my system so that I can set up a virtual jukebox for the owners. I don’t charge a penny for the systems since giving them away actually saves me from paying to recycle them. It’s great to see one of my creations everywhere I go and keep track of how long they last. I have some friends that are loyal to ’98 and run it on a daily basis. No kids are without a computer in my town unless their parents want it that way either. I’m always looking forward to designing another “Frankenstien”!!

  45. Racspur1

    Took an oooold Gateway pentium PC and did a clean install of XP and am using it as my home internet phone server using Magic Jack …3 years now with no problems . I do not use this PC for anything else at all, just the phone system. My phone service with MJ is 19.95 a year !!!

  46. Matt

    I had a 5 year old laptop with a bad screen and a working battery. Instead of replacing the screen, I carefully removed it and turned it into a super power efficient server with a battery backup.I plugged my external hard drive in and use Windows Live Mesh to sync and store music, documents and pictures on it.

  47. Iszi

    Once in awhile, my old machines will get handed down to my wife or daughter if it’s an upgrade to their existing equipment (or lack thereof). More often though, they just become clutter in the garage until I finally give up on ever getting around to making use of them (or, they’ve been picked to death for spare parts).

    On occasion, I have been known to hang parts from the ceiling as decoration though – especially disassembled hard drives.

  48. keithvb

    I use it as a Linux box or, recently, as a Tonido server.

  49. Kelley G


    Donate them to places called Independence First or similar… they refurbish, install windows XP on them and give them to disabled people.

  50. nick

    I’m saving most old P4 systems for my two benchtop CNC machines – they don’t require powerful processors but if the machines I’m currently using die I have a plentiful supply of machines with working parallel ports (used for communication with the controller) and XP installed. It’s also helpful to have spare parts to fix my friends old machines or for a QIMO install for a kid.

  51. jjib

    If it’s a P4 or over then I put ubuntu on it but otherwise I just take the HDD and RAM out of it and use them in other PC’s

  52. Jack Kniate

    To save money on my phone bill and long distance I took my oldest PC which is now 7 and half years old and I hooked up Magic Jack to it. It is on 24/7 and has been for a year and half with no problems so far.I feel what a great way to save money and use of a PC that would normally have gone to the recyclers.

  53. Ken

    On some old ones, I have rebuild them and sold really cheap for a started. Others I have donated to the church, and given out to people that cannot afford one, mainly for their kids to be able to do research for school, or word documents. Another, I converted to an Untangle box for myself. Then I keep one as a back up in case, the worst thing that can happen……………mind goes out. I keep all important files on a NAS in RAID 1 on my network. Did I say that I work in IT, and get all the old stuff that is going to be recycled.

  54. tommy2rs

    I fix pc’s and like others have mentioned get a lot of old hardware dumped on me. P3’s and below get stripped for usable parts, then recycled. P4’s (depending on specs) and up get re-purposed into servers, cloud storage, htpc’s or others things. The best of the bunch I make into loaners for good customers or donate to churches, schools, retirement homes or anywhere else that needs or wants them.

    I got my powerbooks this way. One is a blackbird 520c that still functions though the batteries won’t hold a charge, came with a case, all the books and software. Talk about firing up the Way Back Machine….lol

  55. santhozh

    my old system is used only for browsing.. all the other process are done on my new hardware..

  56. headhog

    I bought a wireless router and converted my HP mini laptop into a wifi hot spot for my Ipad2.

    Works great.

  57. Gizmodex

    ammunition for my catapult!!!!!!!

  58. TrevorD777

    When ever I upgrade the wife’s or my computer, I will build up a 3rd computer for home LAN parties that we have (for the friend that couldn’t bring/or dosn’t have a computer) or give it to to friends for them to get started on learning about computers and computing. Also I use the unused parts to help fix friends and family computer breakdowns.

  59. Raju

    i have pentium 3, 933mhz, vectra vl400, made at 1999.just cleaned window 98 and installed linux-ubuntu.i am using it just like new computer with better speed .it doing wonderful job better than before.older computer can able work with ubuntu better than window os.

  60. Anonymous

    Just what the heck do you need all of that power-sucking equipment for anyway? I bet 80-percent of us – maybe even more – just browse and do piddly little single-box (albeit multi-core) jobs most of the time anyway. So who needs a second, third or even tenth power-hungry global-warming energy-sucking PC or even PDA for anyway? Running Linux or not, if you do this it’s probably a good bet that you’re wasting electricity. Or should I say, “energy”?


    Old computers running as file servers, HTPC’s, or even as some sort of web storage is really just contributing to global warming if all you do is keep it on so that you can access or create seldom used files. I really don’t understand why certain geeks don’t just use external hard drives that that are powered off for most of that stuff anyway. I really don’t understand gamers if they’re not always gaming either – they’re the worst for wasting power with those mega-watt video cards. (Do you have one of these behemoth cards in a powered-on PC and not using it? If so, you might want to address that first!)

    Re purposing an old PC just so your cousin(s), friend(s), etc. can access your ripped movies isn’t just immoral since they’re likely pirated if you do that kind of thing, or stupid, it’s probably a good bet that it’s waste of electricity. Even if all we’re talking about are micro-amps of current draw on a PDA, or even on a Drobo network attached storage unit, if it isn’t really doing anything then it’s probably a waste of energy. And when you think about it, do we really need more zombie systems out there either?

    So sure. It’s nice to be able to find a use for an old PC and I don’t think anyone wants them in our landfills either. But if I have to choose between a one-time deposit to a landfill than contributing to global warming by burning more fossil fuels and killing life on planet earth by leaving it on – especially when there are probably more efficient “appliances” that can do the same thing – I say trash that old PC! Better yet, how about “re-cycle” it for it’s raw materials?

  61. zsuxcia

    I usually upgrade my other older computers, if I can’t use anything I just donate everything that’s usefull.
    Before I always saved everything in case of any emergency but I just ended up with a whole lot of computer material that i didn’t use, also it took up a lot of space.

  62. horizonguy

    I can’t in good conscience throw away tech that can be used in some way. I have found many PC’s at the trash bin that had a very simple problem (bad video card, bios settings reset and can’t boot, etc.). It amazes me how many people just throw away stuff.

    I have 4 pc’s in addition to my Win7 main tower that I use for day to day stuff:

    1. an older Toshiba laptop I got from a friend – it was virus ridden and running XP – wiped it clean, installed Peppermint Linux, and added 1gb of Ram – I use it for presentations on the go and occasional wireless surfing in the living room.

    2. Lenovo netbook – runs XP – used exclusively for torrents, streaming sirius and dropbox syncs.

    3. old IBM PC – pieced this together with spare parts. I use this for running older XP software and misc. tasks. I might tear it down soon and forge an HTPC using other parts.

    4. ancient Pentium 3 tower – circa 1999, limited by max 512 ram. I have this dual boot XP (although runs slow) and Peppermint Linux. Have been trying to figure out a use for this PC or I might break it apart to use the case and fans – it’s best days look to be over.

    I like the suggestions about setting it up as a dedicated MagicJack machine, although I’ve found the MJ works much better on faster PC’s, especially during longer calls.

  63. CH

    I agree somewhat with anonymous:

    It’s not ‘green’ to recycle old tech since newer computers (especially PSUs) can be more power efficient; and newer solutions to ‘low-end’ computing e.g. guru-plug even more-so.

    I actually put my router to good use, since it’s pretty powerful compared to older computers, and far more energy efficient; And since it’s always on anyway, it’s a good alternative to put long-running processes on.

  64. snert

    I keep messing with them dinosaurs in my spare time just to see. My sister gave me and old Dell 2400 last week with Win 95 plus the discs. A POS but something to play with.
    I have lots of 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 fd’s, a SL of SIMMS, and other antique memory and all kinds of old CPUs, MoBo’s and assorted junk using up space in what’s supposed to be a garage.
    There’s a TI 99/4 that still works that I play with now and again.
    I’m a packrat.

  65. danny maramba

    i got my first pc (pentium 133) running for 15 years … did not outlive its usefulness because i gave it lighter loads when it aged … finally gave up on me last year when i could not anymore find parts for it in the surplus shops … was running last on xp … i kept the processor …

  66. Vincent Lee

    1. Linux Fileserver/Printserver/Webserver/etc.
    a. Puppy Linux
    b. CentOS
    c. Debian
    d. Arch Linux
    2. Tear apart, save motherboard with processor and graphics card just in case. Reuse RAM, PSU, fans, sound card (maybe), disks

  67. Rick

    I buy a new (inexpensive) laptop every year for Christmas for myself. After a quick format, the old ones are donated to the military over seas. They use them for email and skype etc to stay in touch with their loved ones. I use an ex girlfriend for my donations as she is a military family, but there are plenty of others like “military money matters”. Just google it or call a recruiting office in your area. It may be junk to you, but that old little 1 mp camera on the notebook allows regular visits of children and loved ones that otherwise might not happen.

  68. IT-FishGuy

    I usually rebuild them with Linux and turn them into file servers. I have one that is solely used for surfing the web only and when I need things downloaded it does the work and puts the files on USB. One of the other machines runs AV on it and scans the USB drive. I did turn a large box into a miniaquairum. After major things fail I send it to be recycled.

  69. Rick

    BTW The military is just MY choice for the donation. There are plenty of other entities that would love your old USEABLE machines. Find one you want to support. Don’t send them your junk though, send those to gizmodex for his catapult.

  70. Roshnal

    I just keep on upgrading the hardware and after a long time the whole computer is changed (the old hardware parts are given to family/friends/relatives). After it becomes too unusable, I use it as a file server.

    For other peripherals, I keep them carefully stacked away as a reminder.

  71. Keith

    As others said, I do computer repair and end up with all kinds of machines. I take the easy/cheap-enough-to-repair machines and re-purpose them for myself or family/friends. Ubuntu goes on the older computers, but as the Ubuntu GUI gets more complex it might make better sense to load Slack or something else lighter.

    Would love to turn one of my P4 boxes into a linux print/file server and also maybe run untangle (looks awesome – thanks Ken!). Not sure how it well it would work with my Windoze comps (would windows see a printer connected to a linux machine over the network?).

    For future computers I get, I’d like to give them away to charitable organizations. Love the idea of schools getting them, but schools these days seem to be running pretty decent computers. Maybe inner-city schools…

  72. The Wiseguy

    Its a real pity to see how so called “Green IT men” are stuck at some part of the world are stuck at a single angle of perspective.

    Although technology trends change for you in a short period of time, why do you forget that our kind, somewhere else, is still fighting with poverty, hunger, disease and mostly with ignorance.

    The technology which you may consider as old, out of date, degraded, still doesn’t exist in some part of the world. Worse is, some of them even do not have the simple power source to run those oldschool scraps….and there you are mumbling about how you made it useful.

    Ok, lets not go so far as Africa, but there are still places even in your neighborhood which still misses the privilege of using a simple PC.

    Have you ever visited an orphanage ? Or an elderly home ? Or a shelter ? Those people there might be not educated or enlightened as you are, but they are hungry for information. You already know that spreading of information saves us all from darkness. So, why blame the “others” for their ignorance ? Whereas we are stuck in our own little doom.

    I am actually someone, but noone in the crowd. But as a good human being which is a CIO, I refurbish my old equipment and I donate them in working condition to orphanages.

    You should try it yourself…I can guarantee you that you will feel overwhelmed when that little girl/boy sees the first PC in front of her…The shine in their eyes and their thankfulness. We all can make a difference. May be some of us will feel the proudness of doing some good deed…

  73. astral_cyborg

    Usually, the computer I use, if it is to be replaced with a newer one, then the old one goes to my sister. My sister’s older computer either goes to be recycled or given away for spare parts or for donation to friends or at the office.

  74. nonosh

    My latest three experiences:

    1. Remove a functional hard drive from a failed computer and give it a new home an USB 2.0 external HD enclosure.

    2. Remove a functional optical drive (preferably DVD or BD writer/burner) and use it as a second drive in a currently functioning desktop computer, if a drive bay is available.

    3. My previous smartphone (BlackBerry 8520, loaded with a 16 GB microSDHC card) is now my full-time music player on the go. It’s great because it natively plays FLAC files (I have many quality-demanding progressive rock and jazz fusion album backups). Plus, the player’s GUI seems much quicker than, say, an iPod because I can simply type in the name of an artist or album rather than scrolling repeatedly to find it.

  75. Pushpraj Singh

    Hi Guys,

    I have got two systems once is P4(Win Xp) another is Dual Core(Win 7). I am planning to buy new Dell Laptop and Samsung Galaxy Tab. But I am worried about what I am gonna do with my PCs. I want some better Idea other than donating or giving it to someone n family. Please suggest. This is nice blog we’ve been thinking about it but never got good opportunity to discuss it.

  76. karishnu

    Take the hard disks out and put them in a hardisk case to use them as a external hard disk

  77. Darwin

    I use HDs from old machines as file storage. They work great, have lots of room for files and you can not scratch them. I have lost data stored on CDs and DVDs, never lost anything on old HD. Make sure you label the HD and it is easy to fine what you need.

  78. gtaus

    We have an electronics recycling box at our local transfer (dump) station. If I can’t find a use for old tech, it’s off to the recycling box. I still use an older P360 for downloading files of Usenet, and with an external USB drive it’s OK. But mainly I agree with those that find having half a dozen old computers plugged in and burning up electricity is probably more of a waste than it’s worth. If the HDD is any good, I’ll slap it in an external USB case, load it up with files, catalog the contents with Supercat Disk Cataloging program and put it on the shelf.

    If anyone knows of a file server system where I could load up old HDDs into some kind of RAID array, where all the HDDs are of different capacity, and where I could swap in a newer larger HDD and the program would empty the oldest/smallest HDD to free up a slot, that would be great. That way I could probably extend the life of HDDs and still have something useful on my home network. When I ask my local computer tech people, they just tell me that you have to buy new drives of all the same capacity. I’m sure they just want to sell new tech. But that does not lead to repurposing my old HDDs which are all different capacities. Also, the RAID system using the older HDDs would have to have built in capacity to error correct if one, or more, of the old HDDs crashed. Any suggestions?

  79. chris

    I have an old windows xp machine with hardware from 1994, I use it as a footstool

  80. Roi

    I found an 8-10 year old Toshiba Satellite laptop laying around with an 877MHz CPU and 128 MB of RAM, installed Ubuntu Server + Apache, and now it’s my web server serving 2000+visitors a day without a hiccup :)

  81. Carolynn

    I have an old XP Machine, that I use as a backup, redundant unit. Since I purchased an installation disk for Windows 7, I use my old machine to store all my files. This way, if I pick up a virus, or some other hack, I can simply format my hard drive, re-install Windows 7, and the re-install all of my personal files, uncontaminated from my old machine.

  82. Atakan

    Well having a lot of siblings and not enough PC’s, I try to make it working first usually with Puppy Linux then I move on to something better. We just have one more PC in the house that can open up word and browse the internet and print pages….all we need for homework.
    This kinda depends on how old it is, I had a PC where it still had Win98 on it with the power supply at the bottom of the case.(Yup it was old) At times like this I use it for its spare parts; for instance I format the HDD and use at as a slave for a newer-but-also-old PC. I keep it around for its CMOS battery, jumpers, and just anything else that is a spare part.

  83. ozl

    I just installed FreeBSD to an old Pentium III HP PC and using it as an FTP Server xD ill try and see if i can do some sync a la drop box with some free software in the near future xD

    Good day people!

  84. Com1

    Install Linux Distro, Install JungleDisk for Linux, Use as NAS Box with Remote Backup.
    Still figuring out how to configure RAID1 with Linux.

  85. Jase

    my first laptop I gave away to a youth club I go to, so the youth club has a second laptop(and more powerful, and useful laptop) when I had my iMac, but kept my little netbook.

    I gave my laptop away because it could not cope with linux and I am fed up with windows.

    My netbook I have given to my sister(as her first pc) and I have put Qimo 4 kids on which is based on xubuntu with a very and highly configurable window manager, full with educational software that is designed for toddlers.

    Qimo 4 kids is designed for kids aged 2 or over.

    It took about 15 minutes to install and takes under 10 seconds to boot, and shut down is basically as fast as putting the lid down.

    and the best thing is, it is fantastic for netbooks with 190something mb’s of ram or more, and hardly uses up any cpu even when you have one that only just can manage windows 2000.

    so it is basically more netbook/old hardware friendly than what windows 2000 was.

    The other reason I gave my laptop to youth club was because why do I need a powerful laptop when I have a iMac that can do 100 times better, and an iPod touch which is perfect for out and about entertainment?

  86. john3347

    I have repurposed an old laptop into a quite cool clock. While the 600 GHz processor and 6 GB memory (if my memory serves me correct) is not worth much for modern computing, it does beautifully with Windows 2000 installed and Clock-Screen-Saver installed. I can read the time from 2 rooms away if I have a clear line of sight and can do so in total darkness or bright sunlight. It would survive power failures without having to be reset until the battery totally died. I think something like Ku Ku Klok would turn it into an alarm clock, but I haven’t yet tried that. External speakers would be required for any significant volume as an alarm clock.

  87. Chris

    The screen burnt out on an old XP laptop so I have connect it to the TV permanently for iPlayer viewing.

    I keep an older version of XP on my notebook pc with an old browser as I have found several websites that do not display properly with Windows 7.

    All other bits go to our charity shop for a Cancer Hospice in Cyprus. We have a lot of Sri Lankans living here and they buy every bit of old electrical and computer equipment cheaply and ship it in containers back to Sri Lanka.

    Maybe I will make a clock???

  88. Duncan

    using four old tower systems, you know the ones that stood about three feet high, i have made a dinning room table with a door salvaged from the local scrap heap. The fans in the towers are really swell in summer as they provide cooling for sweaty feet and the dogs love them too. The CD doors when open make really good coffee cup holders and even the more sturdy will take a bottle of Becks.

  89. Peter Gardner

    I’m impressed with the guy, logan, who “Turned my wife’s old school pc into my shed…”.

  90. Michael

    When I bought a new HP Vista machine I gave my old XP desktop to our local animal shelter. Now they seem to be upgrading to new computers, so I hope they find a good use for it as a file server–if they know enough to do that. That machine had a CRT monitor, but they are upgrading to flat screens, so I gave them my old 1024 x 768 monitor when I got my new 1920 x 1080 monitor. It feels really good to donate old stuff to a worthy cause–and a tax deduction is always nice.
    BTW, I am beginning to hate Windows 7. Every application freezes frequently while I’m using it, and the whole computer needs to be rebooted with the power switch at least once a week. I really miss XP, which I use on my laptop; I may go back to it on my tower machine, since the XP emulator in Win 7 doesn’t seem to work and I need it for my old Epson scanner for which Epson doesn’t provide a Win 7 driver (they want you to buy a new scanner instead).

  91. Lyn Valentine

    HI Guys V10 maybe,
    I am one of the older farts you talk about and I could use some advice, I have Lost 4600 photos on a memory card, but I am hoping I can re-locate them by viewing all of the Old Hard Drives,I have 15 of them, what is the best way to check to find the photos,I am trying to ad the older hard-drive to my desk-top and viewing as the second Drive, is there a better way??????Thanks

    I wish to clear all of these as I wish to give all of the smaller capacity away, but will not until I know they are cleaned for no returning or reading as one could get into wrong hands, any help will be gratefully appreciated ,and a whiz obviously I am not, so please make any information as simple as possible …
    Lyn in Texas

  92. Lyn Valentine

    Thanks and hope help is on its way

  93. john3347

    Lyn Valentine, Sounds like you need to invest in a USB/IDE harddrive adapter and you can view all your loose hardrives just as if they were flash drives. The device costs around $20 to $25. Any online computer supplier (TigerDirect, Newegg, etc.) would have this device or a big box computer store would also have one for a few dollars more.

    As far as cleaning the old harddrives to allow them to get into unknown hands – – forget that. If you have any sensitive information on them, it will not be worth your time and software purchase to safely and securely clean them. Keep them and use them as bulky flash drives after you buy the adapter once.

  94. Kory Reid

    Dear Friends of howtogeek,

    I have three computers; a) is my laptop that serves me just about everywhere I go with Windows 7,
    b) My desktop that serves me at home, with everything I need, Windows 7,
    c) My backup unit, where I store all my redundant files, Windows XP

    The Laptop, Windows 7, is my portable version of all the files I keep on my desktop and permits mobility. My desktop is a Tower Windows 7, is my main computer for the home office – and – My other desktop Tower, Windows XP, is my backup unit, where I store all backup files, so that they are protected from viruses, Trojans, and/or any other kind of cyber or hacker attacks. My XP is NOT connected to the internet and is there for safe from outside intruders. If any of the files on my Desktop Windows 7 is attacked, hacked, or virused in any way, shape or form, my files are at least protected by this backup, which serves both my main Desktop, my mobile Laptop, my mobile phone and tablet. with this kind of storage and redundancy, I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that, while hackers and sackers may be able to access my files, they cannot invariably destroy them, as I can merely remove and replace files, reformat hard drives, and/or protect things like photos, movies, and other files I wish to save from perversions…

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